I have a confession to make. I felt a little apprehensive about the start of Ramadan this year. Not because I did not want to fast--I love fasting for God. It was the thought of having to forgo coffee in the morning that made me most shudder. Chalk it up to human weakness, I guess. Still, whenever I thought about the month of Ramadan, and the special prayers, and the immense blessings, a smile would come to my face, and my heart was comforted.

Ramadan, you see, is the month when my spirit gets recharged for the rest of the year. Except this year.

It pains me deeply to say this, but Ramadan was disappointing. This is because I was working in the intensive care unit this year, and I frequently could not make it to evening prayers. Yes, I still was fasting, but I usually do not eat during the day at work anyway. Missing the prayers, however, hurt me the most this year.

Part of the beauty of this month is those evening prayers. Muslims from all over gather in the mosque. During these special night prayers, the Qur'an is recited in stages so that, by the end of the month, the entire Qur'an is recited. My heart is so much at ease during these prayers, and many times I have a rare moment of true spiritual solace and peace.

The ICU took that away from me. The month of November was one of the roughest months I have ever worked in the ICU. Some of the sickest patients I have ever seen came through the ICU during November. I still remember coming into the hospital on a Sunday afternoon (only three hours after I had left for the day) to take care of a previously healthy gentleman who had meningococcemia, a life-threatening infection that quickly overwhelms the body. I stood at his bedside for hours in my effort to treat his infection. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, he later died from complications of the infection.

Another patient was treated for kidney stones in the hospital and was getting dressed to go home when she suddenly collapsed. Within a matter of hours, she was on a ventilator, and her blood pressure remained dangerously low despite giving multiple medications designed to raise blood pressure. Her predicted chance of death was between 80-90%. This story, however, has a happy ending. Thank God, she recovered from her infection and is currently doing well.

These patients, among numerous others, are the reason Ramadan was different for me this year. The long hours I spent taking care of these patients, along with educating and consoling their family members, precluded me from partaking in much of my holiday--and this has left me sad and disappointed. I am consoled by but one thought: the hope that God will reward me for my efforts in helping the sick.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) told us that every day, each joint in our body must perform a charity. Among many other things, the Prophet mentioned that helping someone with his load is a charity. I pray that God will allow me to extrapolate this to taking care of patients. After all, I do what I do to help people feel better and lighten the burden of their illness. And I absolutely love doing so. Words cannot fully express the feeling I had in my heart when I held my patient's hand (the one with the kidney stones) and told her how much of a pleasure it was to take care of her. It made all the hours spent away from my family and my prayers this Ramadan worth it.

Make no mistake about it, God alone heals the sick, and I am just a witness to His healing as a physician. Nevertheless, I feel immensely blessed and honored that God has bestowed upon me the opportunity to be one of those "witnesses." And if I get God's reward and blessings---which I hope and pray that I do---for helping take care of His sick servants, then all the better. And may be what salvages Ramadan for me.

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